Taking a look at virtualization technologies and the benefits it brings to customers can help build an understanding of some of the potential areas cloud computing can also help businesses. Cloud computing takes the concept of virtualization to a whole new level, far beyond the simple server consolidation that many people still associate it with. When you think of the cloud (particularly a private cloud, which more and more enterprises are making a priority) you should think of it as a virtualized computing environment that delivers a host of compelling new IT benefits. A private cloud presents your datacenter as a pooled, single entity of compute power instead of a collection of individual servers. So it's easy to see that factors such as management and identity become crucial, as does your approach to application development if you intend to take full advantage of cloud computing.

Data from one of our internal teams at Microsoft sheds new light on the state of affairs in virtualization today. As detailed in this study and related blog post, a group at Microsoft dubbed the "War on Cost" team wanted to understand the ongoing operations and management costs for virtualization implementations using a Microsoft Hyper-V solution vs. VMware's ESX and vSphere products. They hired a research firm to get the answer to two questions: which platform is less expensive to operate, and how do management tools impact cost? Some great highlights:

  • The IT labor costs varied widely based on the customer's IT process maturity, but the average costs were $10,357 per guest when hosted on Hyper-V versus $13,629 per guest when hosted on VMware, a 24% savings for Hyper-V relative to VMware's ESX or vSphere hypervisors. Moreover, Hyper-V customers at every maturity level showed lower costs.
  • The average density of Windows Server guests per server was 30% greater for Hyper-V (7.9) than VMware (6.1).
  • Customers using Microsoft System Center management products to manage their hosts had an average of 15.6% lower annual IT labor costs ($9,486) per virtual machine than customers using VMware vCenter ($11,238) and an average of 36.7% lower costs than customers using management products from a mix of vendors ($14,988).

Your mileage may vary, but take a look at the study and related blog post I mentioned above. And there's certainly more than just cost involved in considering your cloud computing options. But however you cut it, these numbers make a compelling case for the power and value of Microsoft's virtualization solutions today. And they provide an interesting snapshot of the cutting edge of competition for cloud computing for tomorrow.

Thanks - Mario